Netflix 2.0?

I am old. Because I am old, I can remember all sorts of things which my children find utterly improbable, like when dinosaurs roamed the earth, the discovery of fire, and when owning a VCR in your home was a status symbol.

My children cannot picture a time when you couldn’t pause or rewind live television, record anything you might want to watch later (without having to find a blank tape, even), or pop a DVD into the player and later toss it into the mailbox so that you can get another one. Everyone has that, Mom, they tell me (usually while rolling their eyes).

Well, the common household entertainment staple, Netflix, is looking to revamp how they do business. Sure, they were the first on the scene, and later other services followed their model, but they were unique and the leader in the field. Now, according to yesterday’s report, they’re looking to become an even easier on-demand service:

DVD-by-mail service Netflix Inc. will begin delivering movies and other programming directly to televisions later this year through a set-top box that will pipe entertainment over a high-speed Internet connection.

The set-top box, to be made by LG Electronics Inc. as part of a partnership announced late Wednesday, is designed to broaden the appeal of a year-old streaming service that Netflix provides to its 7 million subscribers at no additional charge.

LG Electronics didn’t reveal how much the set-top box will cost when it hits the market in the summer or early autumn. Similar devices made by Apple Inc. and Vudu Inc. cost $299 to $399.

I’m no technology expert, and it’s entirely possible that I’ve missed something here, but… isn’t there already a service out there that does this…? And isn’t it called… On Demand? I mean, I have that available through my cable box, already. I’m just not sure why I’d want to buy another box for my television so that I could then pay for the privilege of each movie on top of that.

The set-top box is supposed to serve as a bridge that will enable just about anyone with a high-speed Internet connection to plug in a few wires so they will be able to access Netflix’s Watch Instantly feature on their TVs.

Subscribers will still need to use a computer to pick out which programs they’re interested in streaming. The selections, culled from more than 6,000 titles available in streaming library, will then show up on the TV screen.

“It’s going to be very slick and easy,” said Reed Hastings, Netflix’s chief executive officer. “We want the TV experience to be very relaxing and not like visiting a Web site.”

(Are you not relaxed when you come here? Would being presented with thousands of video titles somehow be more relaxing?)

I think I’m still not quite getting it. But Netflix’s attempt to move into this delivery method will be an interesting case study. If you’re a fellow Netflix customer, keep an eye out for them to start promoting the LG box. I’ll be very curious to see how they try to make it sound better/faster/easier than the current format.

Then again, I thought Betamax was pretty cool. So you can’t really go by me.

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